2010 Buffalo Bills: 10 Unanswered Questions To Temper Expectations

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIIMarch 23, 2010

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 3:  Running back Fred Jackson #22 of Buffalo Bills runs with the ball for yardage during their NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills defeated the Colts 30-7. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

You know when you walk through the various aisles at the store, and you see so many products marked "new," "improved," "brightest," "best tasting," etc.?

Well, if you picture the makeup of the 2010 Buffalo Bills roster and season, envision something of a similar nature.

There will be some bright spots and some ups and downs—but until you actually try the product out and put it to the test, you really don't have a clue what you have on your hands.

For one, I envision the upcoming season as very much in line with that comparison.

The new front office of Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey have already jettisoned a number of 2009 Bills players, such as Terrell Owens, Josh Reed, Ryan Denney, Gibran Hamdan, Jonathan Scott, Richie Incognito, Justin Jenkins, Derek Fine, and Ashlee Palmer. These players were not deemed to have a future with the team, so they were allowed to leave on their own or were waived outright.

Brad Butler retired so he could devote his career to serving people with his passion for politics. Another possible retiree, Aaron Schobel, is still weighing his decision—and he has taken more than the initial two months the team granted him. It must be a tough choice for Aaron as to what to do.

So that brings us back to the new regime and what to expect from the players who still take pride in calling themselves part of the Buffalo Bills organization.

The new players added are all experienced: Cornell Green on the offensive line, Dwan Edwards on the defensive line, and Andra Davis at linebacker. That is a positive thing and will do nothing but help the young Bills—of which there will be many—grow and mature.

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In addition, Edwards had some playoff experience, and there is an extreme shortage of that on the Bills roster—especially because the team hasn't experienced the playoffs for the last 10 years running. That experience is an intangible that was a reason he was brought to Buffalo for the next four years—as that is where the team wants to be.

Just How Competitive Will the 2010 Bills Be?

That is difficult to answer right now, because so many things could happen between now and opening day of the 2010 season that could have a direct impact on the team.

As of today—noting that this is subject to change—I am realistically going to keep my expectations level geared toward a so-so season. I am projecting a .500 winning percentage team—for a number of reasons.

Those reasons are what I refer to as the 10 unanswered questions that need to be addressed:

1 . The difficulty of bringing in a brand-new philosophy on offense and defense. It should also be noted that there are changes in coaching, personnel, and philosophies on special teams as well, with a number of special teams players being cut and a new coach brought in, as Bruce DeHaven replaces Bobby April.

This brand-new philosophy on all three aspects of the team will bring with it unique growing pains. Players will have to adjust to new roles, and they will make mistakes. Those mistakes are usually taken advantage of by pro teams, and they will ultimately result in losses. The Bills lost a number of close games last year, and I expect that trend to continue to a degree this year.

2. Lack of team chemistry . This is something that takes years to build. A cohesive unit doesn't materialize out of thin air or from one solitary training camp. It takes years of playing together to know what the guy next to you is going to do and how he is going to react to certain situations. With the musical chairs that will continue to happen, the Bills roster is one that will see plenty of turnover.

3. The AFC East. The Miami Dolphins won the division recently, the New York Jets went to the AFC Championship Game, and the New England Patriots are annual threats to win it all with Tom Brady at the controls. This is one of the toughest divisions in the NFL to play in—and it makes the Bills' challenge no less daunting.

4. Overcoming the reputation of a cheap owner and a losing team. With each successive year, the Bills will have to find a way to attract better players and talent, whether through free agency or the draft. As has been witnessed with the signings of Edwards and Davis, there will be a certain type of player who appreciates what it is like to play in Buffalo—and looks forward to the challenge.

5. The offensive unit. Chan Gailey will put his stamp on this unit, and it will be better than last year. The Brad Butler retirement hurts the team. The decision to not bring in or sign any other veteran quarterback so far means that the Bills are looking at their existing trio—plus whoever they draft to come in and compete for the starting job.

That the same trio is returning for now means that the Bills will not have a franchise quarterback at the helm for at least one more year. For a league that is widely perceived to be a quarterback-driven league, and for the Bills to have admittedly not much talent, there is the biggest reason for my projected .500 percentage projection. The Bills simply do not possess a playmaking quarterback right now on their roster.

6. Depth—or lack thereof. We saw how the injuries demolished the team last year. Coming into the draft, we don't know yet who the Bills will acquire. But if the Bills were to lose either Fred Jackson or Lee Evans to injury, does anybody care to speculate what this team would do to move the ball week after week?

I hate to go there, but admit it, the depth is scary—and we all saw how unimpressive Marshawn Lynch was last year. Hopefully, the new strength and development coaches will be able to make the astoundingly high number of season-ending injuries a thing of the past.

7. A winning culture? It has been so long since the Bills have finished the season above .500 that the team has learned how to lose—not how to win. Winning begets winning, but is the opposite true, as well? This is an intangible reason, but when the going gets tough in a close game in the fourth quarter, it is nice to know you are playing on a team that knows how to win close games. The Bills aren't there yet.

8. Putting a lot of pressure on untested players. Key players this year will be Shawn Nelson, James Hardy, Steve Johnson, and Aaron Maybin. Because no one from this group has been able to put up any kind of convincing stats, it will be better for Bills fans to wait and see what we have on our hands, rather than expecting great things. Sure, you can hope, but let's be realistic at the same time.

For that matter, Leodis McKelvin could almost be placed in that group, as well. He barely played at all last year, so he will need to show that his game has grown, as well.

9. Overcoming past injuries and psychological issues. With so many injuries last year, how do players like Terrence McGee, Kawika Mitchell, Eric Wood, Derek Schouman, Keith Ellison, and Leodis McKelvin approach this season? We saw how Trent Edwards reacted after his concussions. This is an issue that doesn't get discussed enough.

Do they hold back a little, being unsure of their footing, or do they play with reckless abandon? We would like to think the answer is obvious—but unless we are in those players' shoes, how do we know the answer for sure?

10. The black cloud hanging over the Bills organization: owner Ralph Wilson and his health. Each year that Ralph continues to matriculate in his 90s, you have to wonder how long he has left.

With his passing, all kinds of new questions will flood the team—and its future in Buffalo is obviously one of them. Hopefully, a new successor comes forward who keeps the team in Buffalo—but until then, this black cloud is not going away.

Maybe I should have waited to write this piece until after the draft is completed, but I have seen enough articles and comments from Bills fans that motivated me enough to want to go ahead and write this type of article now.

I'm bringing some caution to the expectation level of Bills fans to prevent them from getting overly excited if we don't come out with guns blazing as the 2010 season unfolds.

What do you project for the 2010 season right now? I would like to hear your thoughts.